Starting game projects is easy – finishing them is hard. That's why GameMaker: Studio's Steam integration is so rife with potential. In addition to providing a guaranteed, albeit squirreled away, gallery for creations in the form of a Steam Workshop section , Game Maker's latest iteration features, incredibly, achievements , effectively bribing developers into creating, testing and releasing their projects onto a number of different platforms. At the time of writing, 21.5% of people have created an empty room, while only 0.1% have encountered 100 or more compile errors. Developers: make buggier games!
The really exciting part is Studio's Workshop page, which is already chock-full of titles. Stupidly, however, in order to actually play any of these games, you first have to download the free version of GM: Studio – Steam treats them all as mods, for some reason. Like much of Steamworks, there's also quite a lot of dreck on the GameMaker channel, so sorting through the Mario clones and reskinned tutorials is going to be a problem. Or rather, it would be without us here – look below for a list of the best GM games to be Workshopped thus far.
Sokoban Palace by TheNocturne
A remake of the block-pushing Japanese puzzle game Sokoban, Sokoban Palace features over 300 levels of box-moving action. If you're in the removals business – and, more importantly, if you enjoy being in the removals business – then you've pretty much found your perfect game. To the rest of, yes, it's another block-based puzzle effort, but it's one of the most polished and fleshed-out games here.
Ne Touchez Pas: Don't Touch The Walls! by NAL
Do you remember that buzzing game thing they occasionally had at rubbish carnivals, where you had to move a hoop along a curvy bit of wire, without touching it? Do you remember how infuriating that was? Well the bad news is that someone's effectively made a game out of it. The good news is that someone's effectively made a game out of it – if you enjoy ultra-challenging twitch arcade games. This is actually the fourth in the Ne Touchez Pas series, featuring six different characters and 50 stages of wall-dodging 'fun'.
Gravity Sucks by TheNocturne
TheNocturne has been busy. When he's not remaking Sokoban, he's proving conclusively that gravity is a real downer. Gravity Sucks is a simple pseudo-platformer that evokes Super Mario Galaxy; your goal is to hop from one planetoid to another, increasing your score by collecting stars, and retaining it by not dying in a heap. Because this is a game made in 2012, it also features a procedurally generated world, albeit a narrow, linear one. Gravity Sucks is a fun enough timewaster, of the sort more commonly found on a phone – where I suspect it may be heading next, given the iPhone-shaped resolution.
Innoquous 4 by NAL
Continuing (along with TheNocturne) his thorough domination of the GM: Studio channel, Andrew McCluskey's Innoquous 4 is a snazzy-looking, gravity-flipping, 2.5D platformer with a seriously lovely chiptune soundtrack. The twist here is that the gravity-perversion is beyond your control; you instead activate it by moving into the little red arrows dotted around each course. I'm pretty sure I've seen this idea somewhere before, but the combination of solid level design and fantastic music has resulted in something moderately special.
SuperMaddening by NAL
I was hoping to include a different developer for this fifth and final pick, but then I took a look at some of the other stuff on GM: Studio's Workshop section. Yeesh . Should you decide to wade into those waters yourself, let the usernames TheNocturne and NAL act as a beacon, at least until some of the other Game Maker alumni decide to port their games across. The clever SuperMaddening is based on, yes, Maddening, a novel platformer with a world that rotates around a central focal point.
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Tom loves exploring in games, whether it’s going the wrong way in a platformer or burgling an apartment in Deus Ex. His favourite game worlds—Stalker, Dark Souls, Thief—have an atmosphere you could wallop with a blackjack. He enjoys horror, adventure, puzzle games and RPGs, and played the Japanese version of Final Fantasy VIII with a translated script he printed off from the internet. Tom has been writing about free games for PC Gamer since 2012. If he were packing for a desert island, he’d take his giant Columbo boxset and a laptop stuffed with PuzzleScript games.